The Bad Beginning (A Series of Unfortunate Events) by Lemony Snicket

Published by Harper Collins

IT is perhaps due to reading and adoring Lemony Snicket’s work from a young age that to this day I am always eager to find a book or series that speaks with kindness and humour of children experiencing difficulties.

While there are many exciting and fantastical moments within this famous series, with this the first book having come out in 1999, the emotions stay with you.

The children in this book are written as people, who experience terrible things and look to those they can trust for support, developing an admirable combination of resilience and empathy.

While many of the themes come across as dark, that very aspect of The Bad Beginning is what sets it apart as fiction for children that appreciates both their intelligence and emotional depth.

As the title of both this and the series suggest, these stories are filled with terrible occurrences that the main characters must navigate with the help of each other.

Fourteen-year-old Violet Baudelaire is an aspiring inventor with a way of knowing just what is needed to solve any problem. Her younger brother of two years, Klaus is highly intelligent and adores reading while their baby sister Sunny has inexplicably sharp teeth she isn’t afraid to use.

While all these skills seem perfectly adapted to handle any scrape, at the beginning of the book the three have had a good and loving childhood.

Their lives spin out of control when they are orphaned by a mysterious fire in the home of their wealthy parents and are forced to live with an uncle they have never met before.

Uncle Olaf is cruel, uncaring and openly plotting to steal their vast inheritance before they become old enough to fully control it themselves.

The book follows their dismay in the sudden cruel twist of fate and sets up for an adolescence where they have to rely on each other – the only true family they have left – for both emotional and tangible support.

While Sunny is a lovable light relief, the heart of the story is the young teenagers Violet and Klaus.

The love they have for each other and their shared younger sister is what makes them some of the most sympathetic characters in young adult fiction, especially as they endure the evil and scheming of Uncle Olaf.

Their teamwork and will to survive pull together every difficult moment where all seems to have been lost and is, looking back, what sparked in me upon my first read, a need to devour each book and follow the characters.

The use of challenging language both encourages young readers to learn new exciting vocabulary and express themselves, and to aspire to the intelligence and strength of Violet and Klaus.

For all these reasons and more that can be found in the ever engaging 13-book series which carries the Baudelaire siblings through trials and tests that are in equal parts genuine, mysterious and humorous.